Mean People

     What do ISIS, our homegrown mass murderers, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have in common?
     They all punch down, not up. They’re gutless cowards who specialize in attacking people weaker than they are: women at a Planned Parenthood clinic, people at a center for disabled children, any woman at all in Syria, poor people in the United States.
     “Doonesbury” cartoonist Garry Trudeau pointed this out long before our latest monstrosities, in an April 12 column on his website. Trudeau did not use his column, “The Abuse of Satire,” to criticize the Muslim gunmen who murdered 12 people at Charlie Hebdo magazine in January, including five cartoonists. He criticized Charlie Hebdo.
     Here is part of what he wrote: “Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny – it’s just mean.
     “By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence.”
     Powerful people have the right to foment hate against people weaker than they are. But why would they do it?
     The repulsive Colorado state Rep. JoAnn Windholz had the right to say and publish this week that Planned Parenthood is “the true instigator of this violence” at its clinic.
     After those murders, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee had the right to say that “many millions of babies die” inside Planned Parenthood clinics, though it’s hard to see why he chose that time to say it.
     Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, had the right to say after the Planned Parenthood murders: “Every time you have some sort of violent crime or mass killing, you can almost see the media salivating, hoping, hoping desperately that the murderer happens to be a Republican so they can use it to try to paint their political enemies. Here’s the simple and undeniable fact: the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats.”
     But why would he say that? It’s a curious response to multiple murders at a medical clinic. It’s a nice bank shot about Democrats, of course, and a typically sneaky racist attack from Cruz.
     Let’s not talk about rights for a minute; let’s talk about oughts.
     Ought people with tremendous power foment violence against the helpless? Probably not.
     Ought they use other people’s suffering to pursue their own political gain? Probably not.
     Ought the average Joe and Josephine on the street have the brains, and the nerve, to call them on it? Probably.
     But the newspapers haven’t.
     Despite Cruz’s smarmy “salivating” media comment, I have not seen any mainline newspaper report as news that Robert Dear shot up the Planned Parenthood office because he’s against abortion.
     Newspapers have quoted members of advocacy groups who said it. Some newspapers drew the obvious lines in editorials. But none, to my knowledge, connected those dots in their reporting. This despite the ceaseless whining we hear about the “liberal” media.
     This is a great country we live in. Most of us live more freely than citizens of any other country in the history of the world. But surely such privileged people, 320 million of us, ought to use our power to punch up, not down. To punch down, as Trudeau says, is just mean. It’s also vile, and cowardly, and disgusting.

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